Michael Bullock (@thebullp_n)
(Ed. Note: This story is part of CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2017-18 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed so far can be found here.)
YORK — Step into York High’s locker room, take a glance at the blackboard that rests on one of the walls and you’ll immediately catch a glimpse of some timely Kyree Generett artwork.
No water colors.
All Generett did was show how creative one can be with a piece of chalk in one’s hand while hoping to provide a constant reminder that needed conveyed to the rest of the basketball-playing Bearcats.
Etched across the top of the sizable yet erasable surface are the words — #control what we can control — while tucked away in the bottom left corner of that same blackboard are the numbers 8-14.
“It’s our motto, so that’s what we try to do every game and every practice, is just control what we can control,” revealed Generett, an athletic 6-2 senior with all softs of lift. “Our 50-50 balls are in there. Defense. Hustle. Those types of things.”
And while the 8-14 represents the disappointing record York High fashioned last season — while missing the District 3 Class 5A tournament — Generett had a logical reason for finding a visible spot for that forgettable mark. By the end of this particular day, he’d even circled those numbers.
“It gives us like fire,” Generett added. “It gives us like motivation for the season to win most of our games. We’re going to take it one game at a time, but we keep that record (to remind us).”
After all, this is York High — where the players hoisting up shots, snaring remarkably athletic rebounds and flashing slick crossover dribbles fluctuate constantly yet the lofty expectations never do.
“Our goals don’t change,” admitted second-year head coach Clovis Gallon, who spent 15 years on the York High staff before succeeding former skipper Troy Sowers prior to last season. “We really believe that we can win the division [York-Adams I]. We believe that we can compete for a county championship. We believe that we can win a [District 3] title. We believe that we can compete for a state championship.
“We believe we have all the parts.”
Returning four regulars from a talented group that dropped 11 contests by 10 points or fewer — Gallon said the tough-luck Bearcats were within one possession with three minutes to go in eight of those setbacks — they just might have all the parts since they’re really not that far off.
“We’re not. We’re not,” Gallon suggested. “We look on last year as a learning experience. I know I did.”
So, what needs to happen for those narrow losses to turn into gratifying victories that up confidence?
“Just execute what he draws up,” said 6-3 junior Marquise McClean, a powerfully built lefty with the skills to play guard and the beef to give it a go on the blocks. “Just make sure under pressure that we stay cool. We just have to trust each other. That’s the main thing we were missing.
“This year we all have trust and we play as a team — and control what we can control.”
Gallon offered specifics.
“If we’re training our bodies the right way. If we’re working on our individual skill sets. If we really buy into boxing out on every shot, while competing for every single rebound and competing for every loose ball, [we’ll be OK]. Going full speed on every play. Taking care of the basketball and not being careless with it. Not taking anything for granted,” Gallon said. “If we really do that, we really feel like we can compete and can win every single game that we play.
"That 8-14 isn’t coming off the board. It’s going to be a constant reminder to the kids.”
In addition to Generett and McClean — Generett is the cousin of former York High star Malik Generett, whose ferocity on the backboards helped the Bearcats finish second in the 2009 District 3 Class AAAA tournament and claim second place in the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs several weeks later — 6-4 junior Clovis Gallon Jr. and 5-11 senior Jasere Drayden are the most experienced players Gallon can put on the floor.
Gallon actually is considering installing his son, a multi-talented performer who can handle, pass and shoot the ball effectively, at the point guard position. While McClean also has the ability to direct traffic, so does 5-9 junior Jaevon Woodyard and 5-10 junior Ed Minter.
Woodyard last year suffered a patellar tendon injury on the final day of preseason practice and missed his sophomore season. Minter, meanwhile, is a terrific on-ball defender.
Rounding out York High’s projected rotation are athletic 6-5 senior Quamere Goff and 6-2 junior Seth Bernstein, a transfer from nearby Eastern York affectionately referred to as “The Beast.”
Yet while York High averaged just south of 70 points per game a season ago, Gallon admitted that some of his first Bearcats team’s shortcomings were defensive inadequacies, inconsistency on the glass and not having an effective point guard. This club seems to have players who can do lots of things.
“We really don’t have a true big man, so anybody on our team can bring the ball up,” Gallon Jr. suggested. “Everybody can do just about everything.
“Everybody can shoot, play defense, run fast, dribble, all of that.”
So, maybe some of those close losses are about to become victories.
“If we take care of our business, we feel like we’ll put ourselves in position to beat anyone. We understand our level of competition,” Gallon said of a YAIAA Division I race that figures to include defending champion Northeastern, Dallastown, Central York and, of course, York High.
“These guys here believe they’re just as good as anyone, but they just have to go out and prove it. The numbers speak for themselves,” Gallon continued.
“We’re just a few possessions away from maybe winning some of those games.”
York High also will square off against a hammer-filled nonleague schedule featuring Williamsport, possibly Reading, Cedar Crest at Philly’s Wells Fargo Center, Math, Civics & Sciences, Chester, Harrisburg and a pair of games at McCaskey’s Holiday Tournament.
“They’re excited about the opportunity,” Gallon said. “They’re excited about the challenge of stepping into those roles. I don’t feel like there’s a chip on their shoulders. If you’re playing for York High, you’ve got to win the county, you’ve got to win the district, and you’ve got to try to win states.
“If playing for York High doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.”
Maybe a few words and some highlighted numbers on a well-placed blackboard can play a role in converting some of those disappointing losses into positive results.
“I just think about all the bad things we did last year,” McClean admitted. “This year it’s changing the outlook, and to work as a team and gel together.”
“We’ve still got to put our egos to the side and everybody’s got to play their roles,” Gallon Jr. added. “Nobody can be a superhero this year, because that’s what last year’s team did.”
Wait, there’s just a little bit more.
“We’ve just got to perform under pressure,” Generett continued. “We’ve just got to stay calm and play together. We’ve just got to play together.
“We’ve just got to control what we can control at that particular moment.”